NORMAL - There is no question athletics director Sheahon Zenger and coach Porter Moser are disappointed with the 8-15 record Illinois State men's basketball team.
They will be the first to acknowledge that. But neither will tell you they are frustrated.
What they will tell you is they are confident the program is headed in the right direction.
"When Porter and I have talked about the season to this point, I would use the word disappointed, but not frustrated," said Zenger.
Moser, who has four years remaining on his contract after this year, said he is asked daily if he is frustrated.
"My answer has been I'm disappointed," he said. "It's my livelihood. It's my passion to win and bring ISU to a championship level. I have a hole in my belly every day that we are not winning. Disappointed? Yes. But frustrated? No.
"Frustrated to me would be coming to practice every day and having the kids have a horrible attitude, not putting forth the effort, and not caring about their classroom work. Frustrated to me would be every day in the office recruiting for a school I didn't think I could sell to get the players we need to win the Missouri Valley Conference championship.
"That's why I'm not frustrated. I know we can sell ISU. I know we can sell this community. I know we can sell Redbird Arena. We can sell this program to get the players in here. I would be really frustrated if I was the coach of a program in the position we are in right now if I didn't think we can recruit the players we need and we had bad kids with bad attitudes."
Zenger understands the program is in a rebuilding year despite coming off a winning season, even though the Redbirds were pickedlast in the conference. He understands that Moser and his staff had no scholarships to recruit with during their first year on the job.
"Porter saw himself as a rebuilder or he wouldn't have taken this job," said Zenger. "He believes in his heart and in his staff that they will get it done."
During his seven months on the job, Zenger also has found the program may have been further down than anyone realized when Moser took the job three years ago.
"It's my observation that the first two years were an attempt on Porter and his staff's part to just dig themselves out of that foxhole," said Zenger. "We're really just having to get started with (Porter's) vision at this point. That's what we'll sit down and visit about at the end of the season."
Zenger said one of the reasons he came to ISU was because of the high quality of coaches on staff.
"Porter Moser is certainly one of those coaches and I continue to think of him in that light," added Zenger. "I appreciate his passion, his enthusiasm, and his game-planning ability. I believe he brings a good game plan to the floor each night. Those are the things that really stand out in my mind."
Zenger said he will sit down with Moser (as is done with all coaches) at the end of the year to discuss the season and the future of the program.
"Obviously, we've had discussions along those lines already and I believe he does have a vision and plan," Zenger said.
Zenger added he doesn't know what Moser was told or the guidelines that were laid out for him to rebuild the program.
"There is a fine line between telling a coach what to do and letting him come in and build things the way he views things need to be built," said Zenger. "I do think Porter and I will be on the same page hence forward in that you have to build a solid foundation with a certain type of recruit when you're building or rebuilding.
"I believe that's where I can help now in helping him focus on a certain type of recruit who brings a high level of skill, ability, academic credibility, work ethic and the desire to come to a place to build."
Zenger said there is a difference between the players who come to a program that is already built and the players who come to a program that's building.
"There is a hunger factor," he said. "Often times, it's not a player who is quite as high profile because those (high-profile) players are going to be courted by so many people. I think you have to turn over every rock and I've seen Porter and his staff do that.
"They are vicious on the recruiting trail. When they are not coaching their team, they are out watching games. You have to turn over those rocks and find that guy who is maybe getting slightly overlooked.
"You have to find those intangibles. These's an art to that…to finding that individual who is not so caught up in where he is going, but more caught up in finding something special."
Moser will be the first to admit that patience isn't one of his better qualities.
"I came here to win championships and I believe we can," he said. "The first sign of a thunderstorm, I'm not going to fold tent. This is when you have to be more resilient. I've been told that tough times don't last, but that tough people do. Right now, we're in tough times.
"But my passion to turn this around hasn't wavered. I know that I'm in a profession that one of the rooms is the kitchen and the kitchen gets hot. I understand that. You just have to have confidence in you, your staff, the place you are working, and the kids that you are going forward.
"I knew it wasn't going to be like Arkansas-Little Rock (where he spent three seasons and turned the program around) because there I signed three kids when I got that job. But I was in that program as an assistant and recruited those guys. We knew it wasn't going to be like that here because of the scholarship situation. We knew it wasn't going to be that fast."
ISU was the most improved team in the Valley last year, but was again picked for a last-place finish this season after losing three of its top players to graduation, a fourth to academics and two others who backed out after signing national letters of intent.
"We made a huge jump in a lot of areas in terms of effort and attitude last year," said Moser. "But we lost our top four players for various factors. That's not an excuse, but we've feeling the effects of some of the things that happened in the past.
"But I still believe we've still made huge strides in terms of effort this year. We simply can't score the ball. Our outlook is that in so many things -attitude, academics, work ethic -we are moving in the right direction. We just need to find some guys who can score the ball in the recruiting process and we need to give them and our younger guys in the program time to develop."
Moser also understands the frustration level of the fans.
"In our profession, everyone wants to win now, but it just simply takes time," he said. "You can't get to the rainbow without going through some rain. Obviously, we are going through some rain right now."